On the day the Senate Judiciary Committee considers her nomination:
I didn’t watch much of the Sotomayor hearings. I found them boring, and frankly, in some weird way they reminded me of my oral exams. And who wants recall that trauma on a weekday afternoon–especially when one is supposed to be writing a dissertation and not watching C-SPAN? Anyway, I caught part of Senator Jon Kyl’s discussion with Sotomayor. I believe this was the first round of questioning on July 14. At some point Kyl, as expected, turns to Sotomayor’s speeches and her “wise Latina” remark. He’s concerned because he thinks judging has (always been) and should (continue to) be neutral, and that Sotomayor might use her sassy Latina-ness to make decisions. Sotomayor says something to the effect of “I didn’t really mean it that way. I was just trying to encourage people who aren’t white, straight, male, privileged, etc.” Of course, I paraphrase. But Kyl likes her response. So he says:
Last Friday (July 24), author E. Lynn Harris died. Though his passing is getting some attention, by comparison, the deaths of other, more famous people have peppered the mainstream media at a much higher rate. A lot of folks (still) don’t know who he is. Either way, learning of his death gave me pause. Not because I’m TOTALLY. FREAKED. OUT. by all these famous black people dying, but because I am surrounded by friends–internet and otherwise–who were deeply moved by his work.
For decades Detroit has been the center of the automotive industry in the United States, and was the destination of many black migrants in the early 50’s and 60’s. The factories provided jobs that allowed black men and women with little education to pay for their families in sustainable and even upwardly mobile ways. As late as the mid-nineties, I can remember guys I was growing up with telling me that college was a waste of time because they could make good money working in the factories like their fathers had.
As such, when the economy crashed last year–and took the automotive industry with it–Detroit, and the black people who inhabit the city (Detroit is 81% black), were especially hard hit. With a 22% unemployment rate in the City of Detroit alone (the State of Michigan unemployment rate is 15.2%), the circumstances become more dire daily.
Beginning today and every third Friday to follow, I will blog vignettes of weekly news stories. This type of vignette blogging will allow people to comment on the story or stories that most affect them. So, for a blogger who delights in blogging about current events, race, and gender this has been as the cliché goes “a week for the history [her-story] books.” Early Monday morning, the internet buzzed with disparaging if now downright racist sexist commentary about newly appointed Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. Pundits and conservative talk show radio host lambasted the pending nominee’s credibility as surgeon general because of her weight. Of, course my response to this was since when do we ask white male senators if their whiteness and maleness influences how they legislate so why is it now important to assess Dr. Benjamin’s weight. And Steve Colbert of the Daily Report agrees.
Then on Tuesday, Chris Brown released on the internet an apology for beating Riahanna. Many felt including me that it was not heartfelt or genuine. Furthermore, merely speaking with one’s spiritual counselors does not necessarily get at the complexities of domestic and teen dating violence. He needs to be in continuous therapy. And, perhaps he should read the statement that Females United For Action (FUFA) wrote in response to teen dating violence. Then news broke about how renowned Harvard scholar, Professor Henry Louis Gates, was arrested for entering his own home. Blogsphere went into a delirious tizzy. Commentary ranged from racial color blind(ism), “Well, the officer was just doing his job and if I saw someone entering who looked “mischievous” I would call the police too to racial analysis, “This is purely racial profiling.” My response to this story is mixed I simply wrote on my Facebook status, “I understand the racism of this story. It happens to countless numbers of black and brown people not just men of color, however, the class dynamics of being able to become as Michael Eric Dyson stated “the Rosa Parks of racial profiling” and to have the President of the United States, Barack Obama, make mention of the issue is something to assess when thinking about how class privilege (I am a Harvard Professor) intersects with race.”
Then on Wednesday, Soledad O’Brien, the race crusader herself, (of course I am being sarcastic) presented Black in America 2 as if the prequel actually reflected the complexities of being Black in America. To be honest, I did not watch the show because it was my birthday and I decided to watch Madagascar 2 at least in this TV viewing I expected to see characters displayed as animals. However, many people did watch the show and have strong opinions about it. Finally to end the week, news about how Barack Obama is losing the debate about reorganizing the health care system broke. Like past presidents seeking to shape public opinion, Barack Obama is relying on town hall meetings and news conferences to sale his agenda. However, I believe he and other Democrats must creatively figure out how to counter conservative group’s ads and commercials which display Obama’s agenda as a plot to take from the hardworking and give to non-hardworking. Of course, this is easily said then done given how this American ethos of hard work and due diligence is fed to us from birth, but it must be done if the Democrats expect to extend coverage to those who are currently uninsured.
So, as stated earlier in this piece, this is the Third Friday News Wrap-Up where you are able to comment on the story or stories that most affect you. Should we consider Dr. Benjamin’s weight as a factor for her not to become the new Surgeon General? Should we forgive Chris Brown for his abusive transgressions? Should we empathize with the white officer who arrested Skip Gates? Should we follow conservative rhetoric that the only people who deserve to medically insured are those who can afford it? Also, if you have other news stories that happened this week, please feel free to share.
In May 2008, I was in the North Lawndale community on my way home from work when I was attacked. I was attacked by 8-12 black children ranging from ages 10 – 12. They were throwing rocks, bricks and etc , because I had refused to give the youngest one money. I didn’t fight back. I just got out of there and went to the police station to file a compliant. I learned that there was a neighborhood search for the leader (aka superman) of this group that had been attacking the elderly and other folks. This was my second time being attacked on the west-side of Chicago. I remember sharing my story with a friend of mine. I was furious every time I thought of the little marauding group of delinquents. I told her how I wanted them to be put in a juvenile detention center. She was appalled. She told me that I was exercising my privilege and not being compassionate to young black children and their struggle. She talked about trying to understand how their community created them to be violent. I asked her if that applied to older “rogues and marauders” and she said “yes.” At this point, we had a conversation about self-determination and human agency vs. environment and other external forces that lead to poor decision-making, piss-poor morals, and a lack of humanity.
Over the next couple weeks I will be exploring a gay man’s struggle. Organizing my own experiences and what I have observed in other close friends, I will try to give an inside look to what it is like to grow up as a gay man in the inner city. There are obviously many aspects to this subject and many in my neighborhood (emphasis on the HOOD part) would rather pretend that being gay is something that is just a “phase” or “non-existent.” Starting from when I was a confused child in elementary school to the point where my brother told me that he “hopes I get aids” this topic has being weighing heavily on my heart for a while now. So over the next couple weeks, here are the titles of the different subjects I will be writing about. A Gay Man’s Struggle: “Coming Out”…”Why DL?”…”Leviticus Said Man Shall Not Lie With Man”…and finally “Liberation?”
When I was a young student at Shaw High School in East Cleveland I watched a movie about a 1988 civil rights drama “Mississippi Burning,” a film based on the 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers. It’s an amazing, troubling and heart-breaking film. The fact that it is based on a true story only heightens its terrifying impact. When I reflect on the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the past century one theme always returns to me, and always strikes my heart: Would I have been brave enough to be one of them? Would I have had the courage to risk life and limb to defend the rights I know and believe should be guaranteed to all Americans?
In my heart I always want to say “yes.” I want to think that I would have been marching on the streets of Montgomery, or taking a bus from Chicago to Birmingham as a Freedom Rider. But, in my head I know — or at least fear — that I would instead be the meek passerby, adamantly opposing segregation and hate as I sat idly on the sidelines, living an easy and comfortable life. This, almost as much as any other part of the Civil Rights Movement, breaks my heart. This fear of my own hypothetical ineffectuality is based, more than anything, in what I perceive to be my own failing in a more current fight for civil rights. In place of brave and courageous outspokenness I have consistently, with fleeting exceptions, substituted the ease and comfort of the closet;
A closet that runs nearly 8 years deep and that, as often as it has protected me from the potential hate and intolerance of others, has encouraged both self-loathing and depression. Knowing now that it was just one step to my liberation is a beautiful sadness.
What I mean to say in all this is that, as well as I know myself after my first nineteen years, I am a homosexual. This is, I suppose, my coming out. I don’t mean this to be a huge revelation, many who I interact with already know, and the way I will live my life tomorrow will be the same as I did today. I simply feel that it’s time for me (and everyone who struggles with me) to start presenting ourselves more honestly, and to take a firmer stand in the fight against homophobia and discrimination.
I still retain this hope now, that ideally those who hated me will still hate me, those who loved me will still love me, and the vast majority that really didn’t care one way or another, will not have a change of heart. “Gay” is who I am, not who I do, and in a perfect world no one would treat me differently once they knew.
However, I know that the world is far from perfect and many may have trouble understanding and accepting this part of me. I can empathize immensely with those of you who fit this description. It has taken me many years to understand what my sexuality means and even more to integrate it into the personal identity I had already accepted (part of which is greatly defined by my Christianity.) I like to believe that most intolerance is rooted not in factually informed hate, but actually in ignorance; and I’ve discovered for myself that ignorance is best defeated by knowledge, not further intolerance.
For any young black gay man, coming out is the biggest and most difficult struggle of their life. Getting to the place where they stop caring what society thinks and start to accept them-selves is a mountain to climb. For now I want to give tribute to those that live out and proud. And If anyone wants to also pay tribute to anyone they know that has climbed the mountain and came out of the oppressive closet (males or females) please pay tribute to them by writing their names in the comment box.
Joe Hovey, Siaara Freeman, Calvin Walker, Jessica wright, James Davis, Rayshawn Birch, Akeem Rollins, Erika Williams, Brianna Mcguire, Taylor Johnson, CJ Reed
But let us also understand why many have chosen not to “come out” and give a moment of silence because they are forced to be silent. Next week I will discuss, A Gay Man’s Stuggle: “Why DL?”
A few years ago, when I was still taking graduate school course work, I got into a “disagreement” with a colleague about race and class. We had just left our course on mid-20th century black literature, and were hanging out in the department lounge for some strange reason–something I’d never do now. I think we had just finished discussing Native Son in class that day, and afterwards the issue of race and class came up. I think I started talking about how unsatisfying the last third of the novel, Fate, is. Or maybe I didn’t. The memory is hazy, as it was a traumatic time in my life, and I’m kind of old now; I don’t much remember my wide-eyed days. Anyway, I think I was making some poorly worded (and perhaps ill-informed) statement about Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison and being black and disillusioned with communism. At some point, and this is clear to me, my cohort emphatically said to me with authority, “I’m sorry. It is all about class.” I was pretty much like, no. I might have said something snarky. I might have not.
Yesterday I received an all too normal phone call from my father telling me that someone in the community had been shot. So like I always do, I held my breath and prayed that it wasn’t somebody that I knew. Luckily in the case it wasn’t. Nonetheless, another young life from community was gone because of senseless violence. My first peer to die from a violent act was in 11th grade. He broke into someone’s house in a botched robbery that ultimately led to his death. It seems after that day the number of my peers that killed someone or were slain increased exponentially. Just this morning when I opened the newspaper I saw another young man that I knew had been shot after getting into an altercation with his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend. I use to ask myself why anyone would resort to what I consider to be barbarism- taking a person’s life for your own gratification. But now I’ve become so numb to violence and death that it worries me.